Use Humor to Reduce Stress

Using humor has been proven to relieve stress. Still, very few of us would admit to not having a good sense of humor. Yet too often, we lose the ability to laugh (or at least smile) at the nonsense and lunacy of life all around us.

You don’t have to be a standup comic or dazzle the group with side-splitting one-liners to make humor work for you. Here are some ways you can make humor one of your stress-reducing tools.

  • Reframe the situation. Dr. Joel Goodman, director of the HUMOR Project in Saratoga Springs, New York, suggests that if you’re having trouble finding humor in a potentially stressful situation, try to see that situation through someone else’s eyes.

    Try to imagine how a friend with a particularly offbeat sense of humor may see it. Or ask yourself how not finding a parking spot or losing your wallet may have been handled on an episode of Seinfeld.

  • Be around others who make you laugh. The humor of other people can be contagious. Not only can their laughter and humor lower your stress level, but you can begin to talk about your own stresses in more comical ways.

  • Tickle your fancy. Try to find and collect bits of humor that you can use to induce a smile or a laugh. It can be that picture of you with that ridiculous look on your face. Stick it up on your bathroom mirror.

    Or it may be a humorous quip or cartoon that makes you chuckle. Put that on the fridge or stick it on your desk at work. Whenever I’m stressed by the need to clean up the house, I recall that marvelous Joan Rivers quip: “I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes — and six months later you have to start all over again.”

Anything that can evoke a smile can change your mood for the better.

Exaggeration is another great way of diffusing a potentially stressful situation, robbing it of much of its impact. One form of exaggeration uses the Blow-up Technique. Here’s how it works. Suppose you’re angry because your neighbor has the TV sound turned up too loud. Let your imagination take it from there.

Now imagine that he has turned it up full blast. Not only that, but he has turned every radio he owns up to ear-splitting levels. You notice that you hear live music and realize a high-school band is practicing in his living room. The walls are now shaking. You get a phone call from your cousin half a mile away, asking what’s going on. The police and fire department start arriving . . . and then you smile.

Exaggeration and distortion can help you put things into clearer perspective. Try it.

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